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Biotech EU Government Politics Science

EU May Allow Members Home Rule On GMO Foods 272

think_nix (1467471) writes The EU Parliament is paving the way for EU Nation States to decide on banning or allowing GMO foods within their respective territories. An further article at Der Spiegel (German) (Google translation) quotes the German Health Minister's claim that if countries cannot specifically, scientifically argue for a ban, this would allow GMO companies to initiate legal actions against the banning ruling states. Furthermore it was noted, given EU Parliaments current stance on not reintroducing border and customs controls between member states, this will make checks and controls of GMO foods between member states even more difficult.
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EU May Allow Members Home Rule On GMO Foods

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  • by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @09:11PM (#47238657)

    GMO that are resistant to roundup can be treated with a lot of roundup, which ends up in your body. The GMO is safe, roundup is not.

  • by NicBenjamin ( 2124018 ) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @09:20PM (#47238691)

    The EU is a weird beast. It's got enough power to be a huge pain in the ass, but not enough to actually do anything. The result is it can't adequately respond to challenges (ie: Crimea, the PIIGS debt crisis), but everyone still hates it for cramping their style. It's somewhat analogous to the US Articles of Confederation, except that government had even less power then the EU (it was somewhere between the UN and NATO in it's ability to bully member-states).

    In the long term it's probably much better for Europe if Europeans decide to go the route we Americans did, and create a truly Federal state with it's own Army. The economic advantages of national autonomy are irrelevant if the Russians have just conquered half of Poland, all of Belarus, Moldova, etc. If they paid the right bribe to any single EU or NATO member-state (ie: Bulgaria has had it's eye on a small chunk of Romania since WW1) they could paralyze every Europe-wide organization because on any issue that actually matters ALL member-states have a veto.

    Europeans are incredibly good at convincing themselves a small (and in the context of a 7-billion-member human race, even Germany is miniscule), wealthy country is a major global player. You can pull that off if you're wealthy enough. If Nigeria, the Chinese, Indians, and a dozen-odd other states all get their economic houses in order you'll all be Luxembourg.

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @10:00PM (#47238783) Journal

    The human race was eating GMO long before it wasn't cool. Wild grains were exploited and improved by the first hundred generations of hunter/gatherers before science knew what a genome was.

    The elephant in the room is the centralization of agriculture with corresponding loss of genetic diversity in our annual harvest. When everybody's growing the exact same plant we're but one bug away from a failed harvest. The consequences (higher food prices) in the First World would be survivable, with adjustments, but the third world would be utterly fucked.

    You can see this on a smaller scale at the grocery store. Bell peppers will grow just fine in most of CONUS, so prices should be fairly resistant to local disasters, right? Wrong. California suffers a massive drought and we've all got higher prices and a limited selection to contend with. Just why does California produce the lion's share of bell peppers and other crops that can grow almost anywhere? Economy of scale. Usually that's a good thing, but in this instance it's setting us up for a massive failure with some pretty dire consequences.

    GMO isn't the problem, but it is symptomatic of a lot of structural flaws in the agriculture industry.

  • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @10:53PM (#47238879)

    Saying you are "pro-GMO" or that "GMOs are safe to injest" is like saying you are "pro-chemicals" or that "chemicals are safe to injest". Both statements are too overly broad to be anything but ridiculous.

    There are most certainly genetic splices that could result in lethal "food" crops. For example, we could splice in genes from a variety of poisonous mushrooms and probably get them to express the lethal chemicals in, say, a tomato. Has Monsanto done that? No, of course not, that would be foolhardy of them, and they are evil, but not fools. Might one of the thousands of genetic modifications in the food supply yield something with unforeseen consequences? Without sufficient study, it's anti-science to say it's settled one way or the other. (That's the kind of sufficient study that *has* been done on global warming, but cannot be done on "GMOs" as a whole.)

    GMOs need to be validated at the lowest level, one change to one crop at a time, where we can see what individual changes to certain plants do to their growth, production, and edible safety. Then we can approve those changes. Is this kind of approval being done? Not in the U.S. it isn't.

    All of the above ignores the fact that some genetic changes are made to make the plants resistant to certain pesticides or other poisons, which are then slathered on the plants as they grow. Let's blanket assume that those genetic changes have been vetted, researched, and approved, and are 100% harmless for human consumption. Are the chemicals the plants have been bathed in suitable for human consumption? Just how long and how hard do I have to wash the food to get those chemicals off? Are they absorbed into the food? Is a non-GMO version less likely to have toxic chemicals in it? (Can I get a non-pesticide version without having to swing all the way to the other extreme and buy organic?)

    The fact that you make such broad, unprovable statements such as "Anti-GMO hysteria is anti-science" and call your opponents "anti-GMO zealots" completely ruins the rest of your reasonable argument about the need for genetic modifications to food staples to ensure an adequate global food supply in the 21st century.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @11:28PM (#47238973)

    It's just an allergic reaction to GMO astroturfing.

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @11:37PM (#47238997) Journal

    You've kind of missed the point:

    1. You could wipe out bell peppers tomorrow and nobody starves to death. My example was simply to point out how centralization leaves the market more vulnerable to local disasters.

    2. I can't buy a green bell pepper that's not grown in California, unless I go to the farmers market. They're simply not carried by any grocery store that I have access to, including the higher end (Wegmans) one. They'll grow almost everywhere (zones 1 through 11 if you're curious) yet California accounts for more than half of production and virtually all of the selection at the grocery store.

    3. My concern with a bug is something that goes after grains, not veggies. You think our grain supply has the same genetic diversity that it did in yesteryear? You're dreaming. Do I think it would mean the end of humanity? Nope, I even said as such. I find it doubtful that the First World would even see a decrease in the obesity rate, much less have to contend with famine. The Third World on the other hand..... what do you suppose happens to them if there's a failed grain harvest and food prices skyrocket?

  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @01:41AM (#47239265) Homepage

    Is that a joke? The "gas deal" certainly provides cheap gas all right - so cheap that there's essentially zero profit in it for Gazprom. It's a real testament to how desperate Russia is to not look like they're dependent on the EU to buy their gas. Check out a map of Russian gas pipelines. Notice the complete lack of any pipelines anywhere near China's major cities. The gas deal leads from an undeveloped field through a nonexistent pipeline through nonexistent processing facilities. The pipeline isn't supposed to come online until 2020, and the main field until 2021. And that's assuming they can actually build it, which given their track record while *not* under sanctions is a big "If". And even if all that transpires, it's still a small fraction of their EU gas exports.

    Anyone who actually looks at the "deal" can easily see it was just a PR move.

    The concept that Russia can just turn east to China is beset by the fundamental problems that Russia doesn't have infrastructure connecting itself well with China, the vast majority of their people live nowhere near China, the vast majority of their industries are nowhere near China, and so forth. Russia is set up to function as part of Europe. And if it came down to it, does anyone in their right mind think that if the EU and US basically told China "us or them", they'd choose Russia, rather than the vastly larger markets of the US and EU that China's already intensely integrated with?

    Not like the "breakup" with Russia would be painless for Europe. They'll be paying higher oil rates and significantly higher gas rates, plus higher rates for a wide variety of raw materials. But the situation is highly lopsided; Russia's GDP is an eighth the size of Europe's, a 16th the size of Europe + US. Whatever reduction in trade that hurts the EU / US hurts them an order of magnitude worse, barring huge multipliers on their part. Their manufacturing sector, in particularly high tech goods, is grossly undersized for the size of their population, and that's very unfortunate because such goods (in particular industrial goods, spare parts, etc) are often not fungible. They're also highly dependent on food imports (at least those are fungible).

  • Wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @04:12AM (#47239525)
    "Genetic engineering is far less likely to have problematic outcomes"

    Hu no. We have even a very well known example of the contrary, of a soja sort stopped because of peanut gene in it generating allergic reaction. Sure it was stopped before commercialization. But this is hardly something you get when splicing. Whereas it is certainly something you have a pay attention for with GMO.

    "We have been studying health impacts of GMOs for over 20 years now and so far we can find absolutely none." that's because we are clever enough to test our shit and discard what is dangerous before it is commercialized (see above). That does not mean there is no danger. In fact we have one documented case of problem which is why we test for potential problems.
    What you probably meant is "We have been studying health impacts of commercialized GMOs for over 20 years now and so far we can find absolutely none". Which is right. GMO can do a lot of good things for us, but let us not call it "without danger or problem" when there is a documented case of problem, and yes allergic reaction from species from which you do not expect them, IS a problem. (which is why we test for it before commercilization).
  • by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @04:26AM (#47239557)

    You'd also have to ask the member states to give up their sovereignty. This wasn't easy even in the case of the US as there were a ton of issues that needed resolving (i.e. balancing power between small and large states.)

    This would be incredibly more difficult in the case of Europe since the individual member states have had their own identity often going back two or even three millennia, not only that but what cultural identity would they take? I.e. little things like what common language will they speak? (Granted the US has no official language, but 80% of the population speaks the same one...such is by far not the case in the EU.) Also, I'm having a hard time seeing how e.g. England would agree to it, seeing as they even refuse to adopt the Euro (which it turns out was actually a good idea and worked quite well in their favor) and they don't even drive on the same side of the road as everybody else.

    There is a large group of nations within the EU that have little problem with increased integration, Britain is in something of a small minority in its anti-EU stance. Until now keeping Britain in the EU has been seen as important and nobody really thought they should leave. Recently, however, the idea has been voiced in other EU countries that the British should just should just bloody leave if they have that stink in their nose rather continue this constant dithering. People are just getting sick of hearing Britain threaten to leave and then never doing anything about it, especially since it usually seems to be a smokescreen to extort special treatment. There is a whole bunch of things that can be done in terms of restructuring the EU if the UK is no longer there fucking things up to get special deals for it's financial industry. If the UK decides to go it will certainly be watched with great interest as they leave the common market, refuses to join the EEZ which is not an option for most of the UK Euro-skeptics/isolationists since it would involve enacting all those hated EU laws without any say in how they are made (a say which the UK currently has as an EU member). Ukip in Britain, the Freedom party in the Netherlands and Front National in France all believe that Europe is better off as a bag of squabbling nation states that Europe was before the EU was set up. The kind of squabbling, feuding bag full of angry weasels that would not have been able to agree on whether or not the Soviet Union was a threat for long enough to even conceive of forming an alliance against the Soviets to prevent them from gobbling Europe up one squabbling state at a time. NATO was only formed as a counterweight against the Soviets after several swift ass-kicks from the Americans and they cannot be counted on to the play the role of the big bad parent forever. So who is right? Is it Ukip and Co. who think they can take Europe back to being a bag of small squabbling nations and still be taken seriously by great powers like China, India, Russia and the USA? Or is it the so called 'federalists' who see increases in political and economic union as the only way to stand up to the big boys? You tell me? Which is more likely to succeed in helping Europe to deal with the Great powers of the 21st century? One big European cat or a group of cute little house-cats? If this reminds you Americans of a debate that took place in the US before the civil war about the pros and cons of increasing Federalism that is no coincidence. The one difference is that I am not nearly as alarmed at the prospect of a European civil war as some of the more delusional Euro skeptic wing nuts who seem to consider a pan European civil war to be just around the corner.

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